Social Anxiety Disorder has such a profound and debilitating effect on people’s lives for those that suffer with the disorder. But what is social anxiety disorder? Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, is the overwhelming fear/anxiety about one or more social situations in which embarrassment may occur and the excessive worrying about a social situation weeks before the event is taking place. As well as that, it is the thoughts that carry on after a social situation and living in a cycle of perceiving that the event has turned out badly and being overly self-consciousness and fearful of being closely watched, judged, and criticised by others.
It’s not just the constant mental strain that comes alongside having social anxiety disorder but also the physical symptoms. For example, I experience panic attacks, nausea, sweaty palms and shaking when I am in a situation with somebody/group of people I don’t know; sometimes I’m anxious around people I do know. It makes everything extremely difficult as you encounter people you don’t know everyday, and, even when I’m in a place where I’m with people I do know, I can sometimes still feel anxious.
I’ve always considered myself to be shy and a tad introvert; I’m very much a ‘yes person’ as well as being a ‘people pleaser’. I’m not ashamed of being any of those things as they make me who I am today however, I’ve acknowledged that I need to stop caring as much about what others think and to start putting myself first. It’s the first baby step forward to fight the anxiety I feel around others – I know it’ll take therapy, as well as other things, to eliminate the disorder as much as possible, but, mind-set is an important factor in moving forward. I no longer want to walk down a busy main road and think “Is everyone watching me” or “are people looking at me out of their windows.” I no longer want to pick up the phone to call my doctors (for example) and then put it back down as I feel I’m wasting their time. And I no longer want to have to turn down invitations to go out with my friends because I’m too fearful of what other people, who I don’t know, will think of me. Consciously I know that It isn’t true, but it’s not as simple as shaking it off; how I wish it was.
It can be lonely a lot of the time; the quote “being in a room full of people and still feeling lonely” applies here. It can restrict your ability to do certain things (or basically everything in my case) which leads to missing out on opportunities. For example, recently, it was my 18th birthday, and I thought that perhaps if I just sit and fight my anxiety out id be able to celebrate it the way I’ve longed/planned to celebrate it. I walked 5 minutes up to the local pub with my friends and partner and it didn’t take long before the physical symptoms began. Let’s just say it wasn’t a good idea (the football being on was also not beneficial as the pub was crammed), I lasted 10 -15 minuets at most before rushing to the pub toilets shaking and having a panic attack. I don’t share this story to deter people from going out with social anxiety disorder, but to help others understand the sheer panic and restriction it can bring to people’s lives.
Its brought a lot of sadness to my life, but it’s also brought a lot to light that I didn’t know beforehand. Suffering from anxiety disorders (not just social anxiety disorder) has taught me a lot about myself and a lot about other people; every cloud has a silver lining.
To resist and fight social anxiety disorder perhaps seems like the best, and only thing available, to do but it isn’t. It all begins with accepting how you feel then, learning more about your disorder and acknowledging that you’re not alone even if it feels that way. CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) is the best proven approach to treat social anxiety disorder (as well as other anxiety/mental health disorders) and there are other things available such as, mindfulness or meditation, that can also help.
I hope you enjoyed reading this blog, I wish I could write more (I’m sure ill do more blogs on social anxiety disorder) but it would end up being a book. This is my experience, but id love to hear yours so please comment, contact me, follow and subscribe to my blog.